Transport Heritage NSW Sydney Trains
100 Years of Anzac

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Preparing for war

At the outbreak of World War I the NSW Railways and Tramways Department was the single largest enterprise in NSW.

In terms of both passenger and freight transport, it was the undisputed age of rail. The railways played a vital role in wartime functions and in preparation for the war.

NSW railwaymen, like other employees from the State Government at the time, did not have to resign to serve in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF). They retained their railway position and were considered seconded to their military duties. Not only were they given leave to join the war, but if their military pay was less than their existing wage, the difference was paid into a trust fund or to their dependants in Australia. Any increments or general pay changes were also accrued to their credit. By the end of the war this policy cost the NSW Railways about £1,000,000.

In February 1916 a riot broke-out at Casula and Liverpool army training camps when 5,000 troops protested against the conditions. The rioting soldiers caused havoc after overtaking the railway station at Liverpool and taking over a train travelling to the city. At Sydney's Central Railway Station armed military guards found a group of over a hundred drunken soldiers destroying a toilet block and demanded they surrender. A shot was fired by a rioting soldier and in response guards returned fire, killing one soldier and seriously injuring eight others. As Australia was in need of more recruits to fight the war, most of the soldiers involved were not punished and were still sent overseas to serve.